Do We Really Need to Take Vitamins for Our Health?


Vitamins got their name because they are “vital to life,” meaning that if you are completely deprived of them for a long period of time, you become sick. One hundred years ago many of our forefathers did suffer from malnutrition. That was an age of under-nutrition. Americans are now living in an age of over-nutrition or over-eating, depending on how you look at it. Today’s modern food distribution system and the availability of a wide range of fresh foods throughout the year mean dietary deprivation is no longer an issue in this country. Except for a few isolated cases of people who can’t absorb their food, we haven’t seen mass cases of vitamin deficiency in this country since the pilgrims washed ashore.

We’ve just been frightened or overly excited by vitamin manufacturers, the processed food industry, and their supporters in the government into thinking we can benefit from supplements. We don’t.

The link between  health  and vitamins may have gained momentum in 1962 when Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize. He was convinced that mega doses of vitamins would be good for your  health . But these claims were based solely on his personal experience with vitamins; his own research had nothing to do with Vitamin C. Just because one person takes a pill and they feel better (even if they are a Nobel Prize winning scientist) that doesn’t mean that the pill was responsible for the effect. That is why we have placebo-controlled trials. In fact there is no evidence to support the claim that Vitamin C in pills or in fresh foods prevents colds. The best that can be said is that Vitamin C reduces symptoms by 23%, and may decrease the length of time you suffer from cold symptoms by about a day. The fact that Vitamin C continues to be touted for the prevention of colds can only be attributed to the incredible marketing ability of the vitamin and supplement industry and the ability of the American public to suspend disbelief.

The modern day obsession with vitamins can be traced to back to a book from the 1960s called ‘Let’s Get Well’ by Adelle Davis. She author advocated high doses of vitamins for most of the ills of modern life. She claimed that she spent many hours in the library reading the scientific literature to find support for the statements, which she made in her books, which were the most influential sources of the modern day obsession with vitamins, supplements and nutrition in the support of  health . Later it was found that most of the citations she made were grossly inaccurate or had no basis in reality. It appears that our current belief in vitamins and supplements were built on a foundation of sand.

The USDA hedged their bets in regards to vitamins when in 1941 they first came up with the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The RDA determined how many vitamins and minerals we need to take in daily in our diets (this is not to be confused with the food pyramid, developed by the USDA in the 1950s, which tells us how much of different food groups we need, like fruits, vegetables, cereals, meat, and dairy products). Most of us are familiar with the RDA from our childhood days of reading the back of our cereal boxes during breakfast time. What most people don’t understand is that the authors of the RDA only knew what type of deprivation was required to develop illness.

The USDA didn’t really know what the minimum was you could take and still be healthy. For instance, pellagra is a deficiency of niacin (Vitamin B-3) that plagued the American South in the first part of the 20th Century, with associated mental dullness, lethargy, and other symptoms. Pellagra was related to the Southern narrow diet of fat back, corn bread and molasses. When foods with niacin and its precursor, tryptophan, such as meats and dairy products, became more available as the standard of living rose, the deficiency was eliminated along with the disease.

However, since the Southern diet was previously devoid of these foods, and since no clinical trials were ever conducted to determine the minimum amount of niacin required, government officials essentially hedged their bets and doubled what you probably need. Better safe than sorry. They also based the recommendation on a tall, young, healthy male who exercises on a regular basis. That means the RDA recommendations don’t apply to women, children, the elderly, small people, or sedentary folks. They don’t have a clue about how much those people need. In fact, if those people followed the USDA recommendations, it wouldn’t be possible to eat enough food to get all the vitamins they say are needed without getting fat, unless they exercised quite a bit. Based on the fact that the RDA analysis of vitamin requirements is based on a bogus standard related to a young healthy male, and an estimate that started out at least double the necessary requirement, the RDA nutritional requirements are at least four times the actual minimal amount of vitamins and minerals, and probably much, much more.

Bottom line is I think it is a waste of time and money to take vitamins. And there are some hidden risks, for instance some vitamins have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and heart disease, rather than decrease them.

Source by Doug Bremner

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